Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Strong Backs Stronger

Being the daughter of a family who owned and operated their own family business (a Rutabaga Farm), I learned many lessons about being an entrepreneur at a young age. I learned that time off was a luxury. Only kids with parents who had "real jobs" participated in after-school activities or went to summer camp. I learned that brand-name designer clothes were expensive, and I had to work twice as many hours in the hot hay fields to afford them. I learned that dressing myself at K-Mart meant I had money left over for more important things like cassette tapes for my Walkman of Van Halen and Guns-N-Roses, which I learned provided mind-numbing relief from the monotony of weeding hundreds of thousands of rows of rutabagas on my hands and knees in the hot blistering sun.

My father would be working with us side-by-side, and when we would waiver or complain, he would shout out "keep yer backs down... this work makes strong backs stronger, and weak backs weaker" I never really understood what the heck that meant, but I would bend down and keep working, wondering what satisfaction he could possibly get from all this back breaking labor. I did not gain insight to the answer of that question until many years later.

My parents livelihood depends on the weather. If they had a year of too much rain, or not enough rain, their cash flow likely suffers. I can't say as children we ever noticed a "bad-year" as far as the quality of life went. We always had food. Some years it consisted of just canned goods my mother preserved from the garden over the summer, and the venison my father stocked in the freezer. I remember a few years of drinking powdered milk (yuck!), but most of the time, if my parents were going through financial hardship, our dinner table did not feel the effects.

Now, 30 some-odd years later, I am the entrepreneur. I run and operate my own business. And while it is not a 115 acre rutabaga farm, I am starting to understand what my father meant by "strong backs stronger."

I marvel now at the risk that was involved in running such a large operation year to year. My father managed a 115 acre farm, with just his children and wife as his managerial team. I often think about the pain staking decisions that were involved, and the choices he had to make to keep the business operating for the last 46 years. Were they always the best decisions? Maybe not... but they were the best decisions he could conclude to at the time... and hey, he must have been doing something right, because they are still in operation to this day.

I have a strong back. I have been instilled with all the knowledge I need to run my own business. I'm smart, I'm creative, and darn it... people like me! If I apply all my strengths, I will just grow stronger.

Strong backs stronger.

On the flip side, hey... I have weaknesses too. I am not as technologically savvy as I would like to be. I am still learning how to grow my business... I got a long row to hoe. If I focused on my weaknesses, I would buckle at my knees. If I focused on the weaknesses that slow me down every day, I would lose energy and be ineffective.

Weak backs weaker.

It's your choice. Focus on your strengths, your abilities and your talents, and you will be building muscles that you didn't even know you had. They are God given, and in all of us. Focus on what you can do, and you can endure even the most difficult tasks. Strong backs stronger.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Life's A Niche.....

A lot of talk has been buzzing lately in my Mastermind calls about making sure we as small business owners (specifically service providers) have successfully honed in on a niche market.

To many new service providers, this concept can be really scary. "Won't I be excluding myself from gaining customers if I only focus on one group of people?" Or, what I commonly hear from my clients is "but I want ANYONE to be my customer".... but more often than not, when we say we want ANYONE as a customer, we get NO ONE.

I was thinking of this the other day after my boyfriend went to get his dog Derby a new collar. He left the house, and an hour later, returned frazzled, frustrated, and empty handed. When I asked him why he didn't get a collar for the dog, he flopped down on the couch "I'm exhausted! I went to "Big-Super-Box-Store" and walked around aimlessly looking for the pet department! After 40 minutes of circling around, and not finding any one to help me, I left! Then I couldn't find where I had parked in the gigantic parking lot!"

Needless to say, he had gone to "Big-Super-Box-Store" because he thought he would get a better price, and he thought they would have what he was looking for, but ended up getting overwhelmed at the hundred thousand offerings in the thousands of square feet of products they offered. He wasted a trip, his time, and his energy, and he ended up not spending his money there.

So we went to a local pet store called Fetch. We parked right in front of the door, and when we entered a friendly clerk asked us what we needed. When we indicated dog collars, he led us straight to the wall that had a wide variety to choose from, and helped us make our selection quickly because he was knowledgeable about the dogs size, breed, and was able to anticipate our needs. We got exactly what we wanted hassle or frustration, in fact, it was a very pleasurable experience. Yes, we probably paid more for the collar at Fetch, but it was worth it for the time we saved.

Now think about your customers for a moment. Think about the amount of information they receive every hour and minute of their days. Are they over whelmed? Do they need a simple in-and-out solution? That's where you can come in as the hero, and yes, you can charge more for your services as a result because you make life easier for your customers by guiding them right to the aisle with the dog collars. Easy in. Easy out. No fuss. No muss.

So by honing in on a niche and claiming your corner of a smaller market, you are able to take your customers by the hand and lead them to exactly what they are looking for, the answer to their problems. And they will be grateful to you as a result, and yes that will probably equal a little extra cha-ching for you. Good Dog!